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North Hills Monthly

Ways to Combat the “COVID 15” Weight Gain

May 28, 2020 04:41PM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Fitness Project

By Terri Marshall

As COVID-19 began spreading across the country, for some of us an unwelcome COVID 15 began spreading across our hips. Much like the freshman 15 in our college days, the COVID 15 sneaks up on us one bag of Cheetos at a time. 

Many of us are working from home. Others are juggling job demands while homeschooling the kids. These are stressful times as we strive to manage this new reality, and how we handle it depends on the person. Judging from the empty shelves in the baking aisles at the grocery stores, Betty Crocker-types are whipping up cakes and cookies aplenty. Other less enterprising folks are hanging out on the sofa, gorging on junk food and binge-watching Netflix. And then there are those virtual happy hours—is it wrong to have five a week? 

Focus on Healthy Habits

While it’s natural to want to cocoon somewhere safe during this crisis, we’re less likely to gain the COVID 15 if we get up and get moving. Through the release of endorphins, exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy and combats anxiety. And, most importantly, it boosts our immune system—something we all need in the fight against the coronavirus.

“Make it a point to move every day. Maybe you’re not going to achieve a personal best or do Olympic-style training, but focusing on healthy habits right now can be beneficial in the future,” advised Tom Duer of the Pittsburgh Fitness Project. “It’s a lot easier to maintain the good habits we develop during this time than it is to start new ones when the world cranks up again. Strive to move for 30 minutes every day.”

Sylvia Maxwell of Baptiste Power Yoga agreed. “Now is a time where we can easily revert back to bad habits, whether it’s eating bad food, drinking alcohol to excess or whatever other weaknesses we have,” she explained. “Moving your body, especially with the power yoga sequence, is an exercise for your mind as well as your body.” 

Making use of the extra time we have at home by cooking healthy meals instead of cupcakes also helps to combat weight gain. “Think of eating healthy and exercising as a privilege,” said Duer. “Approaching it as something we get to do instead of something we have to do keeps the outlook focused on the positive.”

Virtually There

At the time of this article, gyms were still closed in the Pittsburgh area, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good workout. Technology stepped in when gyms closed, giving users plenty of virtual options for keeping fit. 

At the Pittsburgh Fitness Project, trainers utilize Zoom to offer daily classes, along with personal training. “We’ve been able to keep our employees working by offering virtual classes which benefits them as well as our members,” said Duer, adding that the company is also focusing on the community by providing free classes for restaurant workers who have been impacted by the shutdown. 

For those concerned about going back to the gym when it reopens, virtual classes will continue. For information on scheduled classes and packages, visit

Yoga studios are also holding virtual classes. Urban Elements Power Yoga and Indoor Cycling on the North Side offers one free class a day on Instagram Live. Purchasing class passes yields a variety of offerings including Virtual Power Yoga, Virtual Bootcamp, and Virtual Rock & Flow. You can find out more at

The Oakmont location of Baptiste Power Yoga Pittsburgh was open for just four months when COVID-19 struck. 

“We were already operating in business-building mode, which made switching to an online platform fairly easy,” said Maxwell. “We’ve been able to grow our team and our client base, and we went all in on the virtual platform, which will continue after we reopen.” 

Utilizing Zoom for its virtual classes allows the instructors to assist the class, similar to a studio experience. For more information and class schedules, visit

California Cycle Path Indoor Cycling Studio in Pittsburgh is also offering virtual, on-demand classes you can access free on the website at These include TRX Bootcamp, Cycling, Shadow Boxing and Virtual Slaughter Bag which, just from its name, sounds like an outlet for absolving COVID-19 frustration.

Opt Outside

Get your exercise along with a side of fresh air and sunshine by heading to one of the area’s state parks. The parks have remained open throughout the shutdown, but without the benefit of facilities. Now that Allegheny County has partially reopened, hikers may have bathroom access; just be sure to check the website to confirm ahead of time—otherwise, you may have to cut your hike short or find a well-hidden bush.

State social distancing guidelines suggest using parks within 15 minutes from home. Fortunately, the North Hills’ area has plenty to offer. At North Park, hiking, mountain biking and road bike and running trails provide plenty of options to get your heart rate up. 

In McConnells Mill State Park, hikes abound for all levels from the easy 1.2-mile Hell’s Hollow Trail to the intense 14.1-mile Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. You can also immerse yourself in nature as you exercise with a walk along Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve Trail System in Hartwood Acres Park. REI’s crowd-sourced website and app, The Hiking Project, ( provides an excellent resource for finding nearby trail information.

A Bit of Perspective

It's never too late to start a fitness routine and with all of these options, you can choose what works best for you. And don’t stress if your weight has inched up a little.

“Even if you do gain the dreaded COVID 15, it’s better than getting COVID-19,” said Duer. “Give yourself a break.”